Monday, October 4, 2010

New Blog

I'm now blogging on not just weight loss, but achieving overall wellness.

Come see me at my new blog:

Friday, June 4, 2010

Weekly Weigh In - June 4

After last week's speed bump, it was nice to step on the scale and see numbers going down over the course of this week.

Starting Weight: 244 pounds
Last Week's Weight: 181.5
This Week's Weight: 179
Weight Lost This Week: 2.5
Total Weight Lost Overall: 65 pounds

That feels good to write. I've been hovering in the low 180s for the last month, and I finally broke through that barrier this week. It was just one of those weeks where I felt like I didn't actually do that much, but my body just felt like burning calories. My exercise for this week consisted of running Saturday (5 miles), Wednesday (4 miles) and Thursday (4 miles), and playing basketball last night.

I guess what's more surprising is how I overcame a really bad first half of the week in terms of eating. My dinners Saturday through Monday were: shredded beef fajitas, bacon and egg breakfast sandwiches with hash browns and a huge foil dinner.

If you've never had a foil dinner, it's basically a cut of meat (sometimes chicken, sometimes steak, on Monday we used ground beef) put in tin foil with onions, carrots and potatoes, with a slab of butter in the middle to keep everything moist. Making a foil dinner is kind of like making homemade tacos. No matter how small you try and keep it, it always ends up being a way bigger serving than you intended it to be. And I ate every bite of it. I woke up on Tuesday morning having gained 2 pounds. Yikes!

That's just the way my body is, though. I'll gain 2 pounds like that, but I can also lose that much overnight pretty easily.

Here's the point, folks. I'm walking proof that you don't need a 100-percent customized meal plan or to cut out your favorite foods to lose weight. I love tacos. We have had tacos almost every Friday night since I've started losing weight. Every Friday night. I love pizza. I've had pizza probably a dozen times since October. I love popcorn and soda. We have a popcorn and soda movie night probably once a month.

Don't give up the foods you love. It will only drive you crazy. Just get in tune with your body and know when a good time is to eat them and when it's not so good. If you know taco night's coming up, spend the two or three days before that eating crazy good so you can enjoy it. Plan your meals like you plan your life, because it makes a difference.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Weekly Weigh In

Today was weigh-in day and I'm none too pleased. It's been almost two weeks since the marathon and I'm not doing a good job staying in the zone.

Starting Weight: 244 pounds
Last Week's Weight: 181.5
This Week's Goal: 181
This Week's Weight: 181.5
Difference: 0
Total Weight Lost Overall: 62.5

Since last Friday I've run 12 miles total. I played basketball on Tuesday and Thursday nights, although I didn't pick up my intensity as much as I usually do. My knees are hurting. My ankles hurt. I don't feel like working out most days.

I missed my weigh-in goal for the first time since December 31. That's over 5 months. That's discouraging to say the least.

How do you guys handle weeks like this? It's never fun not to lose weight when you're trying to reach a goal.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Told You So

Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Back when I started training, and even throughout my training for the half, people would ask me every now and then if I was going to continue running. Without hesitation, I'd always say no. I'm not a runner, I'd say. It's just something to help me lose weight.

Well, here I am, not even a week after the half in Ogden, and I've already logged six miles in two days. No, it's not much, but the point is I'm still running.


I still can't say that I love to run. Sometimes when I'm out there, I'm feeling a little bit of sports asthma kick in, it's raining (as it was this morning) and I'm waiting for that runner's high to kick in (which, for some reason, it usually doesn't) and I think to myself, why am I doing this?

Then the same thing happens. Every. Single. Time. I sprint for the last quarter mile of my run, and I see that finish line again. Before, it was a figment of my imagination. But now...

Now, it's not just in my imagination. Now it's a memory. And I still get emotional. I still feel that same feeling I did when I crossed that finish line. A sense of accomplishment. A sense that, even though nobody ever told me I couldn't do it, sometimes I tried to tell myself I couldn't do it. And I did. And I still do, every time I run.

That's why I'm still running.

That, and it's a killer way to burn calories.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

In Which I Run a Half Marathon....Part II

Dane Rauschenberg is famous for running 52 marathons in 52 weekends in 2006. I stumbled across his blog in late 2009 as I was Googling information about the Ogden Marathon I had just signed up for. I read every word of his recap of the 2009 Ogden Marathon with keen interest and took note of the fact that, when a guy who has raced all over the world called this marathon course "breathtaking," I knew I was in for a treat.

Even though my usual pace is around 9 minutes per mile, I lined up at the starting line past the 10 minute pace flag in order to at least start the race with my wife, who runs a little bit slower than I do. We were far enough back not to even hear the gun sound, but the low rumble of feet hitting pavement sent a tingle up my spine and let me know that the experience was about to begin.

Crossing that starting line felt surreal. On one hand, it was time to focus and get myself started on this big undertaking I'd been training months for. On the other hand, I wanted to stop, take it all in and savor the moment. When I saw the pace of the crowd in front of me, that moment didn't last long. I blew a kiss to my wife, bid her farewell, then started picking my way through the crowd.

I knew when I started my training that running on the road would better prepare me for a road race (duh,) but I had no idea how different it would be running a race with thousands of other runners around you as opposed to having it all to yourself. The first mile for me was all about getting in front of the slower-paced racers. I probably averaged about 7.5 minutes per mile over the first mile, well above my normal pace, but all in an effort to get out of what felt like the slow lane. Nothing against anyone else out on the course with me, but it was crowded and I wanted to get up to runners around my pace before the start of the first hill.

As you leave the town of Eden, Utah, you make a U-turn around the edge of the Pineview Reservoir and head south on Route 158. A few hundred yards after the first mile marker stood what is considered the toughest hill on the marathon or half marathon course. I hadn't done any hill training, but the hill was early enough in the course that it didn't have too much effect on my pace. I got to the top of the hill and, for the first time since crossing the finish line, looked around at my surroundings.

The sun was just above the line of mountains to the east, reflecting its rays on the reservoir, which sparkled and shimmered in the morning light. The air was crisp, not too cold. A perfect morning for a run.

I felt great for the first 5 miles, which wound their way along the edge of the reservoir. Around mile 3, I found a guy who looked to be about my age but much more of a runner, whose pace I liked. I settled in behind him as we weaved our way gradually through the crowd.

Although I'm sure it's not advisable, I never drank water while out on my training runs, not even the long 10- and 12-mile ones. So I was excited to take advantage of the aid stations along the way. I felt good enough to pass the first two at miles one and two, but passing the third, I thought I'd give it a shot. Running full pace, grabbing a cup of Powerade and downing it on the run and tossing it toward (but, alas, not in) a cardboard wastebasket made me feel like a real runner.

Around mile 5, the course crossed over the Pineview Dam and took a sharp turn to the east, merging onto Hwy 39, which winds through Ogden Canyon. This was the first real downhill portion of the race, and I took advantage. Extending my stride, I eased off the gas and let gravity do all the work. A nice rest at almost the halfway point.

I'm usually pretty focused on my runs. I talk to myself, think about what's going on in my life, and act as my own motivational speaker. "You've got this. No sweat. Just one foot in front of the other." The usual stuff.

At around mile 6.5 I had a momentary reprieve from my inner dialogue. A runner who appeared to be slightly older than I came up on my left, sprinted past me, cut across my path about 10 feet ahead and darted to the right side of the course. I wasn't sure what he was up to until I saw the line of porta-potties up ahead. I chuckled to myself and made sure I wasn't close to an emergency myself before getting back into focus. But seconds later, I heard a woman's blood-curdling scream, followed by his voice saying, "OH, %&$#!!! The door wasn't locked!!" Everyone within earshot couldn't help but laugh. Not two seconds later, we hear a second scream and another "OH, $*#*@!!"

Apparently not one, but two women had failed to lock the doors to their porta-potties, leading to what I'm sure was a memorable experience for all involved.

Note to self: if you have to use the john out on the course, lock the door. And if you forget, the woman screaming next to you should be a clue to check the lock.

That moment of levity was a nice break, especially considering that it came just short of the halfway point.

As my wife and I stood at the starting line, I had commented to her that my left hip had been giving me a little pain since the night before. Prior to the halfway point, I had felt great. But between 6.5 and 7 miles, my hip started to hurt.

I pushed through and tried to ignore it and focus on the beautiful scenery that was the Ogden Canyon. To the left was the jagged canyon wall, sitting no more than five feet from the edge of the road in some places. On the right was a shallow gorge with a large stream running through it. Dane had it right. This course was breathtaking. I think the most useful part of it all was how it kept me entertained, kept my mind off the constant plodding of feet on pavement.

I love to people watch in the airport. It turns out running a race with thousands of other competitors is also a great place to people watch. This race was full of people of all shapes, sizes and ages. At one point, I ran for several miles behind a girl who, for some reason, had tucked her circa 2003 iPod into the back of her rolled up shorts which weren' snug enough around her waist. With each bounce of each step she took, the iPod pulled down her shorts juuuuuuust enough to do a great impression of a plumber, if you know what I mean.

Other people had on shirts with interesting messages. Two girls, walking on the right side of the road, had shirts which said on the back "I have rheumatoid arthritis and you're STILL behind me." Okay....

Another girl had a black t-shirt that had emblazoned on the back "RUNNING TO CATCH MY FATHER'S KILLER."

I saw a boy who looked to be all of 10 years old. I saw a man who appeared to be in his 70s who I struggled to pass, his pace was so fast.

All along the course, volunteers and spectators alike cheered on the racers. Just as I hadn't had any experience with refreshments during any of my runs, I'd never had random strangers clapping and encouraging me. At several points, it moved me. At many points, it motivated me. All along the way, I appreciated everyone who turned out to cheer on people they had never met.

At mile 9 I picked up a banana slice and a gel packet. They gave me a boost of energy, but by the time we were winding our way out of the canyon and approaching the mile 10 marker, I was starting to hurt. My left knee and hip were giving me pain with every step. Not bad enough to stop, just bad enough to be on the back of my mind as everyone gazed up to the opening of the canyon at a gorgeous waterfall flowing from the south wall of Ogden Canyon.

Exiting the canyon, the course curves to the right and, all of a sudden, veers off the road and through a pedestrian tunnel. Out of nowhere, we emerged into a gorgeous park on a runner's path. Signs indicated we had approached the 5K mark. Only 3.1 miles left. My hip was hurting more now. My knees were aching. Legs tired. Lungs feeling a slight burn.

More Powerade at the 11 mile aid station, but it wasn't doing much more than keeping my legs going. I could feel my pace slowing down and, for the first time, was afraid I wasn't going to make my goal of finishing under 2 hours.

All through my training I had run without a stopwatch, using the one on my cell phone which I would leave on the hood of my car as I left the house, then calculating my time when I returned home. So not knowing what shape I was in time-wise was not a new thing to me. But feeling as if there was a chance I could come up short only pushed me to run faster. Not much faster, but as fast as I felt I could.

The last three miles of the course were much different than the reservoir and the canyon. Fewer people around, but still cramped because of the tight quarters. More spectators. More trees, more shade.

After almost 2 miles in the park, I passed the 12 mile marker. One mile and change left. A few hundred yards later, I looked to my left and saw downtown. Almost there. A sharp turn to the left put us on Grant Avenue, the last straightaway.

Every run during my training, I pictured this moment. Being on Grant Street with the finish line in the distance. Seeing the crowd lining the street. By this point I was really hurting. As I passed 22nd Street, I could feel my left calf beginning to cramp up. "Not here. Not now." I thought. "Just make it to the next intersection." Never had I thought about stopping on the last mile or, heaven forbid, walking the final half mile. In every practice run, I had sprinted the final hundred yards. I wanted to finish strong, not limp over the finish line.

I found a way to manipulate my left foot as I ran to keep my leg from cramping up. As I passed the stoplight at 23rd street, the crowd was lethargic. People around me seemed tired as well. Like a basketball player trying to pump up the crowd for a big defensive stop, I put my arms out and waved them toward the sky, imploring someone, anyone to give me that last burst I needed to get to the finish line.

I got it. The crowd cheered, and I could make out the clock at the top of the finish line arch. I knew I had started at least three to four minutes after the gun sounded, and the clock read just over 2 hours. Only 50 yards to go to make my goal. A rush of adrenaline swept over me as I sprinted as hard as I could, raised my arms over my head in triumph and crossed over the finish line.

All in one moment, it felt like the race had taken five minutes and five days, all at the same time. It felt like the easiest, yet the hardest thing I had ever done. I walked to the side of the finishing area, bent over and let the emotion sweep over me.

There's something incredibly powerful about setting an audacious goal, pursuing it, and then all of a sudden realizing you've accomplished it. Seven months of training, sweat, pain, stretching, ibuprofen, sore knees, sore muscles and intermittent doubt were wiped away as I stood up and saw a woman in front of me ready to put the finisher's medal around my neck.

My final time: 1:57:43.9. A sub-9 minute mile. Right on time.

I had done it.

And, in that moment, I felt like I could do anything.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

In Which I Run a Half Marathon...Part I

Over seven months ago, my wife made a suggestion: that we get in shape by training for a half marathon. I believe I laughed out loud at the suggestion. I've never been a runner, nor any type of athlete for that matter. The last time I ran over a mile at one time was during middle school back when I looked like this:

Combine that with the fact that, since middle school, I'd put on about 70 extra pounds and had bad knees from that extra weight and basic genetics, it seemed a fool's errand.

But something made me change my mind, and we began training for the Ogden Half Marathon. From October to January I used a Couch to 5K program to whip my legs into submission and force them to run 3 miles at a time, and let me tell you, 3 miles felt like an eternity at the time.

I mastered 3 miles, then pushed onward at the beginning of the year, starting in mid-February. I found a half-marathon training program online and began spending Saturday mornings running progressively longer and longer runs until this weekend, it was time.

I think one of the most fun things was how much of a complete experience the whole thing was. Not just the race, not just the running, but the whole thing. Getting out of town and making a whole event out of it.

We checked into the Ogden Marriott on Friday night, and were pleasantly surprised to find that it was literally just around the corner from the finish line. Checking in, I had a panic attack for a few minutes as I listened to a manger talking to the couple in front of me in line, informing them that their Expedia reservation had been canceled due to some military exercise that had taken a huge block of rooms. Evidently Expedia wouldn't give out the phone numbers of the people who got bumped, they show up and all of a sudden don't have a place to stay the night before the marathon. Major bummer. Luckily, I booked through the hotel directly, and our reservations were fine.

We checked in and headed down to the runner's expo. Walking around, it was a strange experience. I've never done something like this before, and I'm looking at all these people thinking "These people are runners. I'm not." But we picked up our packets, walked around the vendors and just took in the whole experience.

We got some Italian food for dinner to get our carbs in and headed back to the hotel to get some rest.

If there's one thing I would have changed if I had it to do over again, and something I likely won't ever do again, it would be bringing the kids to the hotel for the night before the race. When it was time for bed, both kids were screaming, and I ended up bringing my two-year-old in bed with us for the night, who proceeded to push, kick, jostle and otherwise inflict his mom and dad with a barrage of sleep-preventing activities while he slept, making for a quite unpleasant night's sleep. Next time, I think we'll opt for finding someone to take the kids overnight.

Wake up time was 4 a.m. That's early. Really early. But race day was finally here, and it felt great to be lacing up my shoes for the actual event rather than a normal morning run.

We threw our clothes on, left the kids with my wife's sister (thanks a million, by the way) at the hotel and walked the three blocks to the shuttle buses. With the 35-degree morning temperatures, the heated shuttle bus with its padded seats was a welcome environment.

The Ogden Marathon starts up in the canyon, winds its way past a beautiful reservoir, through jagged cliffs, next to a real-life babbling brook and down into the city of Ogden for the final 3-plus miles. The Half Marathon starts just a few miles short of the reservoir in the city of Eden, Utah. Participants gather in a quaint little town park pulled straight from a Norman Rockwell painting, complete with an old-fashioned baseball field and a general store across the park to the north.

We stepped off the bus, this time with the temperature a good 5 degrees colder than in the city, and huddled around fire pits for a half hour or so waiting for the race to start. After an hour and a half of walking around, stretching and getting to the starting line, it was finally time.

It's hard to explain the anticipation of seven months of training, cold morning runs, weeks of sore muscles and hours of a treadmill all coming down to this one moment. The gun sounded, (although we were far enough back we didn't hear it) we crossed the starting line, and the race was on....

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Secret

I had someone ask me the other day what my "secret" to all the weight I've lost is. I chuckled. Everyone wants to know the magical tip or secret method you used to accomplish something noticeable. Whether it's making lots of money, losing weight or acquiring a skill, there must be a "secret" that help you achieve your goal, right?

The secret is that there's no secret. Real, long-term weight loss doesn't come from fad diets or magic fat-burning pills. It comes from hard, hard, HARD work and sacrifice. In fact, that's how most meaningful things in life come about.

I've been thinking over the last few days and trying to transport myself back into the person I was over seven months ago when I started my weight-loss journey. What was it that clicked back then that didn't so many other times when I'd tried before?

The only answer I could come up with was that I was sick and tired. Fed up. Frustrated beyond the point of ignoring the problem. That, and I set a long-term, seemingly outrageous goal: to run a half marathon in under two hours.

A little over 60 hours from now, that seven months of work and training will come to fruition and withing the course of only a few hours I'll fulfill a goal I set over half a year ago.

If you're looking for a secret to accomplish a goal you want to go after, don't look anywhere but inside yourself. YOU are the secret to accomplishing your goals and dreams. If you really dig deep and figure out you finally want it bad enough, you can do just about anything your heart is set on. It's just a matter of doing what it takes and never quitting until you get there.